Hands up who feels like an impostor?
(Man, it’s hard to type one-handed.)
It’s estimated that 80% of people experience impostor syndrome at some point in their lives. For the 20% who have no idea what we’re talking about, impostor syndrome is defined as a fear of failure. Overwhelming evidence may show that you have excellent performance and obvious success, but you put that down to luck rather than skill. You believe that any success has been attained by circumstance: that you were simply in the right place at the right time, or just got lucky. And you’re constantly expecting to be found out.
For this reason, “impostors” rarely admit that’s how they feel. It would be exposing yourself in the most excruciating manner, like suddenly standing up on a packed train carriage and shouting “Hey everyone! I just farted!“. Once the “secret” is out, you believe that people will be able to see straight through you, no one will trust your judgement again, everything you have will be snatched away from you, and the seat next to you on the train will be eternally empty.
A couple of years ago, my husband came home from work and told me about the introductory meeting he’d had with the high-profile, super-confident CEO of the large company he was working for at the time. At one point during the meeting, my husband awkwardly said “I don’t know how I got here – I just keep expecting to be found out”, and then panicked as he noticed a brief flicker of shock flash across the eyes of the CEO. As they were leaving the meeting later, the CEO whispered to him, “That thing you said about being found out… I feel like that all the time”.
It’s something I’ve felt in various jobs over the years, but I’m hearing it from a huge number of people since I’ve joined the quilting fraternity. So many of our wonderful peers feel like they don’t belong and simply don’t measure up to all those amazing makers out there. Our work isn’t as precise, innovative, fun, beautiful or prolific as all those other people’s. We simply don’t cut the mustard.
As “impostors” are likely to judge themselves unfairly in a social context, Instagram, with its highly polished, carefully choreographed, filtered, brightened, colourful versions of makers and their makes, drains the powers of “impostors” like a truckload of kryptonite. On the flip side, when “impostors” post something on IG, no matter how many likes they receive or the positive comments they get, they are resistant to the praise and good feedback as they don’t believe it’s true, or that they haven’t properly earned it for some reason.
If this description makes you feel like I’ve somehow been eavesdropping on the running commentary in your head, watch this excellent video by The School Of Life. Then take some time to practice the tools it provides to recalibrate your thinking. But most importantly, please believe me when I say YOU BELONG HERE. Because if you don’t, neither do I, or 80% of the other amazing makers out there.
(aka The Baroness)